Life Logging

There are a growing number of people who are going out of their way to log every aspect of their daily lives. I first stumbled across this phenomena when I read “Total Recall” by Jim Gemmell and Roger Lueder. The book details their efforts as pioneers in the field and looks at equipment and applications for the data gathered. It’s been a while since I read the book, but some of the interesting things that I remember centered around the data mining.

One of the authors had to give a speech at a retirement party for a colleague that he had worked with for years. When he was asked to do the speech he immediately agreed but then after the fact realized that he didn’t really have anything to say. He did a search on his life log and came up with pictures and video clips that allowed him to not only recall interesting times, it helped him pull together the best talk that he had ever written. He didn’t actually realize how much of their lives they had shared until he reviewed his own data.

It seems kind of sad that we could have a significant relationship with another person that we commit to our poor storage system and subsequently forget. We all think that diseases like Alzheimer’s are tragic, but in actual fact we all forget an incredible number of things and that doesn’t concern us at all. We form opinions about people based on the small fraction of things we think we remember.

One of the two authors had health issues so he researched equipment that he could wear the would log vital signs. He was able to compile a log of calories in verses calories burned, monitor every heart beat and detect early signs of heart attack and stroke. He was able to track the effects of drugs and maintain a log of his general health. I noticed that my blood pressure rises for a month every year when I stop cycling. One year I scheduled my yearly physical during that period and my physician was ready to but me on blood pressure medication. I convinced him to wait a month and when I returned for a follow up, all was well.

The authors realized early on that the brain is a terrible data storage systems as it fuses memories and over writes information. There may be ways to help humans format their brains better and prevent these problems but having a brain backup via modern technology is a good alternative.

The authors suggest that we digitally log everything. If you get a piece of paper in the mail, scan it and through the paper away. This works for a large amount of what we do, but it’s hard to get rid of things like legal documents where the original document must be presented at some point in the future. Water marking technology can help in some cases but information security and control of documents can effect outcomes in court cases. For example if you have video evidence of a crime and you can’t prove that you controlled access to the original tape, then it becomes not admissible in court. The argument is that it could have been tampered with when it was outside your control.

One of the authors wears a camera that takes random snap shots so he can log his day. Things like pictures and audio clips are all stored in a searchable data store making it possible to quickly remember things that may not have seemed important at the time.

Life logging in general has been split into the following catagories:

Implicit, light lifelogging You don’t delete anything on your computer or cloud stores or social sites
Professional lifelogging Communication, professional material
Personal and family lifelogging iLife, Google
Lifelong learned logging Books, magazines and journals you read
Social lifelogging Communication, ideas, etc. e.g. FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yammer
Health-wellness lifelogging Quantitative Self groups
Conversations & thoughts lifelogging Transcribing notes from conversations. Thad Starner, c1993-
Extreme lifelogging Everything you see and hear aka Sousveillance e.g. the likes of Autographer products and services (camera and image cloud store)
Lifelog Tracks Everywhere you’ve been, aka lifetrack / lifetrek
“Image” i.e. what society thinks it knows about you logging or
After-lifelogging: Only your avatar knows. TBD
Institutional lifelogging of the famous: e.g. LoC, British Library
Property lifelogging: A catalogue of all the stuff we own

Life logging is an interesting concept but I think it will have to be automated to the point where I don’t have to think about it before it would interest me. Perhaps there is room for  a middle ground where we could drop off all of our papers, pictures and videos and an organizations will log it all for us. The question then would be “How much would you pay to have your hard copies converted to soft copies?”

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